It’s been a long time since a literary novel has kept me in its clutches, even when I feel like I know the characters and how it will turn out. Still, it’s not like you abandon people you know even when you know the turnout, because they’re your friends and you like spending time with them. Even if sometimes you question why they do certain things.
Now You See It chronicles the life of a young man named David after his wife, Jessica, vanishes. Her keys and wallet are still on the table, and there are no signs of a break-in. So, really, what happened to her?
The thing about literary fiction is that it makes drama and adventure out of the ordinary. Somehow you are enthralled at the descriptions of life’s smallest mysteries and tasks: going to a party, going out to lunch, and meeting new people. In a good author’s hands, real life can become interesting. Lynn treats her characters with truth and vulnerability, even if, in the end, I wondered why certain choices were made.
The novel cuts back and forth between David’s present-day life, and he and Jessica’s honeymoon in Peru. What connects the two is not Jessica herself, but a news story that David follows about a missing American hiker. As more and more clues bring the mystery into focus, and the story becomes juicier and more dramatic, David has to learn what has led him to this moment in time—and ultimately, Jessica’s disappearance. David is a go-getter who cannot resist a story that grabs him, and the choices he makes in going about investigating this case are what test his marriage.
The first thing I thought of when I heard the title was of a magician and his illusions. And illusions and questions populate the narrative, asking how well we actually know the people we love most and whether we’d rather stick with the illusion than the truth. Looking at David and Jessica’s life of parties and New York socialites, it would seem like an illusion. And I think it is David’s ultimate realization of that illusion that drives the resolution. His wife Jessica may or may not have realized that all before him…
So it seems like a pretty easy moral and the characters seem familiar, yeah? Yeah. But the book is still breezy, and David’s confident, though at times brash, inner voice makes him a compelling hero. We get good character details through his memories of Jessica, and the flashbacks, thankfully brief, add a good touch of nostalgia and, at the same time, grief, for when illusions were okay, and we still had time before life inevitably destroyed them.
I won’t go into spoilers, so you can decide for yourself whether the results of Jessica’s disappearance were justified. I’ll just end this by saying that it’s worth a read for its brisk pacing, good characterization, and the questions asked about relationships, ourselves, and what we’ll risk to be happy.